The cannabis industry has no shortage of tech companies, which has pros and cons.
On one hand, you have a wide variety of options to choose from. New cannatech companies enter the mix every day, meaning there’s probably a tool for anything you need.
However, it's also overwhelming, confusing, or unnecessarily time-consuming to evaluate and compare the growing list of cannabis tech companies. Especially when many promise virtually the same features or benefits.
Read on for 10 tips to help you choose the right marijuana retail software.
1. Plan before you buy
Software can be expensive and time-consuming to implement. Before committing to any tool, first evaluate your needs to make sure it will solve them. This may seem like a given, but it’s a common mistake. Take the time to understand your needs before you start searching for solutions.
Ask yourself these questions:
What do your customers want?
How does the technology fit into your vision for your dispensary workflows?
How would the tool enhance your customer's experience?
What are your competitors doing?
Does this technology solve your challenges?
Do you have another tool that can already solve the challenge?
Once you know what you want, you can start filling those needs with the best possible tool(s) for the job. There are cannabis-specific tools for everything from online ordering/ecommerce to cannabis POS systems and delivery services to CRM.
When building your dispensary technology stack, start with your point-of-sale software, then build on premium tools from there.
2. Pick a partner that specializes in cannabis
Compliance should always be a priority, so you need to partner with companies that understand the intricacies of cannabis compliance. It may be tempting to look to larger, established brands for your tool stack, but they weren’t designed for your cannabis business.
There are an increasing number of cannabis technology businesses that provide outstanding service and compliance exclusively to our industry.
For everything from inventory management to cultivation to loyalty programs, there is a cannabis-specific technology partner to meet the needs of your retail store.
3. Find a partner with excellent customer support
It shouldn’t need to be said, but make sure any partner or vendor you engage with can support you, both with initial set-up and ongoing questions.
Ask tough questions before signing about what effort is required to get started with the tool to set expectations, including:
How long does onboarding take? What are the requirements?
Who do I contact with questions?
What hours is your support team available?
Can I get immediate, real-time help if needed, or do I have to submit a ticket?
How long does it take you to respond to my call or email? (Ask them to share real stats — they should have them!)
Also try calling their support line or researching their online tools and help centers to get a sense of how easy it’ll be to get help when you need it.
Do you get the sense that they are available to you and want to support the needs of your business? If no, walk away.
4. Choose trustworthy partners that have your best interests in mind
A partnership should be just as the name suggests, equally beneficial for both parties. Do your research on what partners exist in the space, their ratings and reviews, and talk to current customers if possible.
The goal is to develop a long-term relationship with people you trust and want to do business with.
Here are some tips for assessing trustworthiness:
Always read the fine print before signing anything.
Have your lawyer review to make sure the terms and expectations are appropriate.
Watch for excessive contract terms or fees. This is an industry-wide issue!
Avoid companies that sell your data to third parties.
5. Buy only the tools that you need
There are a few must-have dispensary tools that keep your business compliant, like a dispensary pos system to process sales, or payroll software to legally pay your employees.
But beware of people telling you that you need every tool.
Focus first on the must-haves, then on the tools that create the experience you desire and solve your challenges.
Don’t overcomplicate things, but if you want to experiment with something new and interesting, go for it!
As the industry evolves, customer expectations will change, so focus on what you need right now and deal with the rest later.
6. Ensure that all integrations work together
Just like your point of sale system and the hardware that supports it, make sure all your integrations work together.
The ideal cannabis dispensary tech stack is built on API integrations and a systematic flow of data. You don’t want to risk inefficiency with tools that require manual or extra work.
For example, if you’re in a Metrc state, an API push to the tracking software is crucial for time savings and compliance. Another example is integrating your POS solution, and thus inventory, with live online menus like Weedmaps, Dutchie, or Leafly. Integrations like this save considerable time and streamline your processes.
Check with the potential partner and shore up any concerns about functionality and integration before moving forward with a deal.
7. Choose vendors that are built to scale
As your business grows, either in same-store revenue, or to more locations, you need tools that can scale with you.
As your cannabis retail business expands, you will need increasing levels of support, functionality, mobility, and security. The last thing you need during expansion is to implement new vendors.
Get it right from the start, either by choosing tools built to scale, or those that are slightly beyond your needs now. Talk to the technology suppliers about their current customers, how they handle adding new stores, and pricing structures to get a big picture view of how you would grow using that particular tool.
8. Be wary of vendors that claim to do it all
It may seem appealing to go with vendors who claim to satisfy all of your marijuana dispensary’s needs, but more often than not, you’ll get the best customer experience by integrating best-in-class partners who specialize.
A highly integrated system of complementary solutions that do one thing extremely well are able to offer you a seamless experience that will satisfy your customers.
The downside of all-in-one vendors, like some popular seed-to-sale providers, is that they have such broad products. While some areas of the products may be great, it’s more likely that other parts of the experience are lacking.
Why You Should Rethink Seed-to-Sale
The exception is cannatech vendors who offer several product offerings, all in the same lane. For example, springbig is commonly known for customer loyalty programs, but also offer communication options, CRM, and marketing automation.
But even though you can do all these things with one vendor, you don’t have to.
9. Ensure buy-in at all levels before committing
The biggest mistake you can make is deciding that a product or service is necessary without consulting those responsible for using it. You don’t want to waste time or effort implementing tools that never get used.
Make sure budtenders, inventory managers, receptionists, or whoever will actually be using the software is on board.
Gather feedback from all stakeholders before making any purchases and use their input to form your plan (in step #1). Talk to them about their needs, what would help their daily tasks, and what they think customers would appreciate.
Finally, if the tool is hard to use, isn’t integrated, creates more work, or has an outdated design, your staff won’t use it. Always look for technology that’s modern, simple to navigate, quick to train, and functional to ensure lasting and consistent use.
It’s ok if the tool isn’t perfect, but it must do what you expect it to do.
10. Be cautious about unproven companies
The challenge is that every tech company in cannabis is a startup, but some have more lasting power and proof of success than others.
Do your research into how long the company has been around, if they have funding, where the team is located, etc. It’s not necessarily indicative of company health if they have one employee vs. 500, or where they’re located, but understanding the culture and long-term vision of the company can help you decide.
You could end up with a great deal (or a unique offering in your area) by using a brand-new technology, but it’s also a risk. Make sure you weigh those risks versus rewards when working with any partner, but especially ones without much proof of concept.
As a retailer, you have the opportunity to create streamlined workflows while delighting customers from check in to checkout.
The cannabis industry may be young, but it’s becoming increasingly competitive. Integrating premium cannabis partners with your POS software can help your cannabis retail shop succeed for the long term.
Ready to learn more?
See the 6 Must-Have Technology Solutions for Dispensaries